Exactly one hundred years ago Louis Bleriot set off from Sangatte for the half hour flight to Dover. Unlike yesterday – which was an excellent day for flying – the weather conditions were not good, and the Bleriot XI aircraft had no compass. Against the odds (Bleriot had burned his foot on the aircraft’s exhaust the previous day) he navigated towards Dover by eye, finally landing in Dover and crushing his landing gear. But the flight, just over thirty five minutes, carried him into the history books and won him a £1000 prize offered for the first crossing by the Daily Mail.
On Saturday I went down to Dover for the Bleriot celebrations. The Bleriot Memorial has been re-landscaped and looked wonderful in the morning sun, as scores of local dignitaries celebrated the centenary event alongside M.Bleriot’s grandson.
Amidst the carnival atmosphere throughout the town, the arrival of a celebration flight in replica aircraft, the flypasts by Hurricane and Spitfire planes and Sea King helicopter, it struck me that Dover and Bleriot have some striking similarities. Dedication, passion, the will to succeed – all are common traits which underpin extraordinary achievement.
For thousands of visitors to the celebrations yesterday, Dover should now become a location of choice. I’m honoured to be Chairman of the Dover Pride regeneration partnership, which brings together partners from a whole range of agencies to ensure that Dover fulfils its promise. We now need to make sure that the same dedication, passion and commitment shown by a lone Frenchman a century ago spurs us on to acknowledge what a special place Dover really is.